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A monkey is any cercopithecoid (Old World monkey) or platyrrhine (New World monkey) primate. All primates that are not prosimians (lemurs and tarsiers) or apes are monkeys. The 264 known extant monkey species represent two of the three groupings of simian primates (the third group being the 21 species of apes). Monkeys are generally considered to be intelligent and, unlike apes, monkeys usually have tails.

The New World monkeys are classified within the parvorder Platyrrhini, whereas the Old World monkeys (superfamily Cercopithecoidea) form part of the parvorder Catarrhini, which also includes the apes. Thus, scientifically speaking, monkeys are paraphyletic (not a single coherent group) and Old World monkeys are actually more closely related to the apes than they are to the New World monkeys.

Due to its size (up to ) the Mandrill is often thought to be an ape, but it is actually an Old World monkey. Also, a few monkey species have the word "ape" in their common name.

Etymology

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word "monkey" may originate in a German version of the Reynard the Fox fable, published circa 1580. In this version of the fable, a character named Moneke is the son of Martin the Ape. The word Moneke may have been derived from the Italian monna, which means "a female ape". The name Moneke likely persisted over time due to the popularity of Reynard the Fox.

The term 'monkey' is an artificial grouping; it is not a "good" taxon, but instead it is a paraphyletic group, like "fish". A "good" taxon, as most modern biologists consider it, is a monophyletic group, that is, a group consisting of all the evolutionary descendants of a single ancestor species. The term 'monkey' covers all platyrrhines (flat, broad noses) and some catarrhines (nostrils-downwards), but excludes the apes.

A group of monkeys may be referred to as a mission or a tribe.

Characteristics

Monkeys range in size from the Pygmy Marmoset, at 140 to 160 millimetres (5–6 in) long (plus tail) and 120 to 140 grams (4–5 oz) in weight, to the male Mandrill, almost long and weighing . Some are arboreal (living in trees) while others live on the savanna; diets differ among the various species but may contain any of the following: fruit, leaves, seeds, nuts, flowers, eggs and small animals (including insects and spiders).

Some characteristics are shared among the groups; most New World monkeys have prehensile tails while Old World monkeys have non-prehensile tails or no visible tail at all. Some have trichromat color vision like that of humans, others are dichromat or monochromat. Although both the New and Old World monkeys, like the apes, have forward facing eyes, the faces of Old World and New World monkeys look very different, though again, each group shares some features such as the types of noses, cheeks and rumps.

Classification

The following list shows where the various monkey families (bolded) are placed in the Primate classification.



Note that the smallest grouping that contains them all is the Simiiformes, the simians, which also contains the apes. Calling apes "monkeys" is considered scientifically incorrect as apes are distinctly defined as different from monkeys. Apes were included in earlier use of the term, predating modern classifications. Including some or all apes (other than humans) remained the common usage in the early 20th century and is still in colloquial use. Calling either a simian is correct.

Relationship with humans

The many species of monkey have varied relationships with humans. Some are kept as pets, others used as model organisms in laboratories or in space missions. They may be killed in monkey drives when they threatened agriculture, or serve as service animals for the disabled.

In some areas, some species of monkey are considered agricultural pest, and can cause extensive damage to commercial and subsistence crops. This can have important implications for the conservation of endangered species, which may be subject to persecution. In some instances farmers' perceptions of the damage may exceed the actual damage. Monkeys that have become habituated to human presence in tourist locations may also be considered pests, attacking tourists.

In religion and culture, the monkey often represents quick-wittedness and mischief.

As service animals for the disabled

Some organizations train capuchin monkeys as monkey helpers to assist quadriplegics and other people with severe spinal cord injuries or mobility impairments. After being socialized in a human home as infants, the monkeys undergo extensive training before being placed with a quadriplegic. Around the house, the monkeys help out by doing tasks including microwaving food, washing the quadriplegic's face and opening drink bottles.

In experiments

Macaques, especially the Rhesus Macaque, and African Green Monkeys are widely used in animal testing facilities, either wild-caught or purpose-bred. They are used primarily because of their relative ease of handling, their fast reproductive cycle (compared to apes) and their psychological and physical similarity to humans. In the United Statesmarker, around 50,000 non-human primates, most of them monkeys, have been used in experiments every year since 1973; 10,000 monkeys were used in the European Union in 2004.


The use of monkeys in laboratories is controversial. Animal rights activists claim that their use is cruel and produces little information of value, and there have been many protests, vandalism to testing facilities and threats to workers. Others claim that it has led to many important medical breakthroughs such as the rabies vaccine, understanding of human reproduction and basic knowledge about brain function and that the prevention of harm to humans should be a higher priority than the possible harm done to monkeys. The topic has become a popular cause for animal rights and animal welfare groups.

In space

A number of countries have used monkeys as part of their space exploration programmes, including the United States and France. The first monkey in space was Albert II who flew in the US-launched V-2 rocket in June 14, 1949.

As food

Monkey brains are eaten as a delicacy in South Asia, China,and Africa. In traditional Islamic dietary laws, the eating of monkeys is forbidden. However, monkeys are sometimes eaten in parts of Africa, where they can be sold as "bushmeat".

Literature

Sun Wukong (the "Monkey King"), a character who figures prominently in Chinese mythology, is the main protagonist in the classic comic Chinese novel Journey to the West.

Monkeys are prevalent in numerous books, television programs, and movies. The television series Monkey and the literary characters Monsieur Eek and Curious George are all examples.
However, pop culture often incorrectly labels apes, particularly chimpanzees, gibbons, and gorillas, as monkeys. Terry Pratchett makes use of the distinction in his Discworld novels, in which the Librarian of the Unseen University is an orangutan who gets very violent if referred to as a monkey.

The Winged monkeys are prominent characters in The Wizard of Oz.

Religion and worship

Hanuman, a prominent divine entity in Hinduism, is a monkey-like humanoid. He may bestow longevity.

In Buddhism, the monkey is an early incarnation of Buddha but may also represent trickery and ugliness. The Chinese Buddhist "mind monkey" metaphor refers to the unsettled, restless state of human mind. Monkey is also one of the Three Senseless Creatures, symbolizing greed, with the tiger representing anger and the deer lovesickness.

The Mizaru or three wise monkeys are revered in Japanese folklore.

The Moche people of ancient Peru worshipped nature. They placed emphasis on animals and often depicted monkeys in their art.

Entertainment

In the Tamil country, monkeys were used for entertainment. The owner trains monkeys to perform gymnastics in public. Even today, it could be practiced in remote villages.

Zodiac

The Monkey is the ninth in the twelve-year cycle of animals which appear in the Chinese zodiac related to the Chinese calendar. .

See also



References

  1. Definition of Monkey in Merriam Webster's Online Dictionary
  2. Encyclopaedia Britannica 1911: Monkey
  3. Webster's New World College Dictionary, 4th Ed: Monkey
  4. "Covance Cruelty", People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
  5. "The supply and use of primates in the EU", European Biomedical Research Association.


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